Alternatives Assessment under the RMA & Business Case Processes
Authors: Richard Peterson, Senior Principal Planner; Paula Hunter, National Specialist Planning; Phil Peet, Sector Leader – Transport Advisory, Stantec; David Allen, Partner, Buddle Findlay
Assessing alternative ways to resolve problems, take advantage of opportunities and fulfil objectives should be a key step in any significant planning process. Under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), an “alternatives assessment” is required:
- When seeking resource consent for projects with the potential to have significant adverse effects, where the
application is for a discharge permit or a coastal permit, and/or where a “Best Practicable Option” approach is
- When seeking a Notice of Requirement (NOR), if the requiring authority has an insufficient interest in the
land and/or it is likely that the work will have significant adverse effects on the environment.
In addition, directive environmental protection policy requirements, the use of effects management hierarchies and giving effect to Te Mana o Te Wai, are expanding the need for detailed and carefully managed alternative assessment processes.
Increasingly, many projects advanced under the RMA are also subject to business case evaluations intended to ensure robust investment decision-making. The business case process also requires the assessment of alternatives to ensure that the proposed investment will address the identified problems, represent value for money, and be implemented efficiently.
This paper compares the drivers for alternatives assessment under the RMA and the business case process. It provides recommendations to help ensure that alternatives assessment can efficiently and effectively meet the requirements of both.